Alone, Contemplation, Meditation, Prayer, Quiet, Quietude, Reflection, Rev. Kathy Manis Findley, Sacred Pauses, Sacred Space, Silence

In My Sacred Space

Photography by Johannes Groll

I write about sacred space a lot. I struggle to create sacred space a lot. I rest in sacred space . . . not so much. Certainly not enough. I confess that I, as a person who claims to cherish sacred space, can rarely find it. I must also confess that I need it. Yet, that space where I am tranquil, not agitated and troubled, is elusive to me. As some folk put it, “I’m staying busy!” Too busy!

Photography by Kevin Young

Sacred space is different for every person. Each person will know her/his sacred space intuitively, and by faith. Mine would be under a tree with spreading, low hanging branches or walking my own garden labyrinth.


Your sacred space may be beside the seashore, a place where you find calm, peace, or the ”silence” of the ever-moving ocean. Or you may not require a particular place at all, just a state of mind and an open spirit. If you long for a place of solace, inspiration, or re-creation, you will eventually create a sacred space, either a place that nature has created, a holy place that you have found, or a place you create in your own home. You will know the place, because you will sense what it is doing for your body and soul. Still, you won’t necessarily have to find your sacred space. Your sacred space may find you. And if you have only a few moments each day, make it your sacred pause.

Your sacred space may be beside the seashore, a place where you find calm, peace, or the ”silence” of the ever-moving ocean.


Do not strain to see where your sacred space is or what it should look like. A sacred space has many faces, many facets and dimensions.

Imagine . . .

Once you find your sacred space, spend time there. You may choose to redecorate a quiet place in your home, build something in your garden that can center your thoughts, or find a quiet, beautiful place nearby that you can get to frequently and easily. As for what you do in your sacred space . . . well that will be as varied as the different spaces people choose.

Pray, breathe, sing, meditate, sit in holy silence—whatever you are moved to do is your own sacred moment—a very personal sacred moment. There is, however, one bit of wisdom that seems important—words from Joseph Campbell: “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.”


Music for Contemplation

Sacred Space ~ Music for Meditation




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Palms and Cheers of Hosanna! Passion, Oppression and Forgiveness

The Sunday of the Palm and Passion

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,

    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
  he humbled himself

    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess

    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV

This is Palm Sunday, of course. This morning I saw proof of that. Proof that today is Palm Sunday was all around my church this morning—the bright flower arrangement with palm branches as its foundation; the children who processed down the aisles joyfully waving palm branches; the live artist painting beautiful palm branches on her painting; the jubilant singing so filled with ”Hosannas.”

But there is more. In many churches, today is called ”The Sunday of the Palm and Passion.” When we hear the story of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem, greeted by a jubilant crowd shouting ”Hosanna!” and waving palm branches, we cannot help but rejoice. But notice also how quickly the cheers of the crowd turned into jeers. Almost instantly, the palm waving stopped and the passion began.

After the green fronds moving gracefully in the breeze become still, we immediately sense passion—the passion that moved Jesus toward death on the cross, the passion we will see and feel in the week ahead.

In this stained glass window entitled ”Christ Crucified,” one can most definitely see an aura of passion. We see color, shape, movement and light that tells all of the story—Palm and Passion and everything in between. The window portrays a Black Jesus with arms outstretched, his right hand symbolizing oppression, his left forgiveness. We see pathos in the stained glass artist’s symbolism of oppression and forgiveness, and perhaps we interpret it as a message for us: that embracing both oppression and forgiveness creates our fullness of life.

The window was a gift to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, from the people of Wales, U.K. in 1964. You might remember that on September 15, 1963, the congregation of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama were greeting one another before the start of their Sunday service. In the basement of the church, five young girls, two of them sisters, gathered in the ladies room in their best dresses. It was Youth Day and they were excited about taking part in the Sunday worship service.

Just before 11 o’clock, instead of rising to begin prayers, the congregation was knocked to the ground. As a bomb exploded under the steps of the church, they sought safety under the pews and shielded each other from falling debris. In the basement, four little girls, 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and 11-year-old Cynthia Wesley, were killed. Addie’s sister Sarah survived, but lost her right eye.

There it is. The oppression and forgiveness—The Passion—the passion of Christ, the passion that a church family in Birmingham faced in 1963, the passion being endured right now among the people of Ukraine . . . and the passion that at times leaves each of us brokenhearted and despairing.

Yet, I call your attention back to the stained glass window. Of course, it portrays the passion of Christ, but surrounding his image are signs of hope beyond passion. From across the ocean, another country felt the angst of a church in mourning, parents of little girls laid low. I imagine that this extravagant gift from Wales represents hope beyond passion to this very day for the congregation of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

The stained glass visually expresses oppression and forgiveness, yet in its vibrant color and light, shouts of hope beyond passion:

Above Christ’s head, the rainbow colors of his halo. 
Surrounding him, the large circle of blues that looks like eternity.
And Christ’s hands—
his right hand symbolizing oppression and his left, forgiveness.

Whenever we dare to reach down into the soul to find our faith at its very core, we will always find oppression and forgiveness. I think that’s what passion is really about, when all is said and done—oppression and forgiveness.

A Prayer in Remembrance of Christ’s Passion

God of Life and Death,
         As we lean into this holiest of weeks, we will see both,
                     Life and Death.

Life in the waving of palms. 
Life in the cheering of crowd celebrating a king riding a donkey. 
Life in the washing of feet. 
Life in the sharing of the supper we call “Last.” 
Even in the sound of the cock, loudly crowing. 

But we sense this feeling of dread,
because we know also that this will be a week of death,
Even death on a cross. 

Comfort us as we relive the death of Jesus,
The Passion of Christ.
And help us to remember that in life and in death, there is more;
There is more oppression and there is more forgiveness,
and it brings us hope.

There is so much more . . .
After life
After death

There is Resurrection!
Amen.

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Peace, War, Devastation and Hope

Ukraine . . . ”Repair the Ruined Cities”


There are no words enraged enough to write about the horrific devastation in Ukraine!

There are no words angry enough to write about the devastating loss, the despondent people, the frightened children!

There are no words incendiary enough to decry a violent, inhumane Russian military or the power-hungry, evil man that commands them!

There are no words poweful enough to condemn what happened today: that at least 50 people were killed and around 100 injured in a Russian rocket attack on the Kramatorsk train station. The station was being used to evacuate civilians from eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. At least five children were killed in the attack.

There are not enough words to intercede in prayer and lament for a nation destroyed, with a wasteland left behind. Not enough words to cry out for peace. Not enough words to whisper in mourning for the Ukrainian people and their children who have been killed, wounded, and forced to leave their homeland. When will wars be over?

Of course, butterflies will still be beautiful after war, but what do we do in this season of war? How do we help? How should we pray? Where do we go to search for hope for the despondent people of Ukraine? How do we help repair Ukraine’s ruined cities? Of all the sources of hope we could seek, this passage of scripture, Isaiah 61: 1-4, always offers me a sense of new hope amidst devastation.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;

to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

They shall build up the ancient ruins,
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

A PRAYER FOR PEACE FOR THE UKRAINIAN PEOPLE

God of mercy, Prince of Peace
help us to listen to your holy voice, 
a voice that speaks of peace to all people,
and in this moment, to the despairing people of Ukraine.

Let the sound of your voice resonate within us, 
until a whisper becomes a shout 
which cannot be ignored.

Move us with your love, 
so that our actions echo your peace, 
so that we may offer compassion and comfort to the Ukrainian people, brought low by conflict.

Comfort them, God,
with your peace that is beyond understanding,

beyond all conflict,
stronger than war’s destruction.

Fill us with your hope, O Lord, and 
let peace begin with us.

Quiet the fear and hatred that divides us
as we live into your calling to “repair the ruined cities” in our world,
grace us, in your mercy, with courage and hope,
so that we may see beyond the dark clouds of war, a true and lasting peace;
so that we may see that beyond destruction, there is restoration;
so that we may see that beyond death, there is life everlasting and eternal.

We offer this prayer, O God, with heavy hearts,
Lamenting the evils of war,
longing for a fresh breeze of peace by Spirit wind,
Through Christ our Lord, the eternal Prince of Peace. Amen.


The Prince of Peace
with the World in His Arms

Hear this message of peace offered by the Harlem Boys’ Choir.

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Now . . . We Will Address a Black Woman “Justice”

This is a moment to remember and celebrate! By a vote of 53 to 4, we will call a Black woman “Justice!” The historic pronouncement was made in the United States Senate Chamber by another Black woman, Vice President Kamala Harris.

What a clear picture of the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice! The arc does indeed bend toward all that is right and just. Today the arc bent ever so slightly, yet far enough to cause a nation to celebrate.

This confirmation of soon to be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is historic for this nation. The first Black woman will serve as a Supreme Court Justice, while her presence will make the Supreme Court look more like America and will more closely reflect the American people.

I stood up from my chair in the living room to join the Democrats who stood to their feet in an extended standing ovation! While we cheered, the Republicans filed out silently, unwilling to offer this highly qualified woman the respect she deserves. I wonder if the fact that they could not get out of there fast enough reflects their shame of how they treated her. I doubt it. I heard this today.

White women have to break glass ceilings.
Black women have to break out of a glass cube.

It’s true I think, especially when I consider that soon to be Justice Jackson endured 24 hours of grueling and often disrespectful questioning. She responded to every disparaging question with grace and dignity throughout the long hours. She knew, as women know all too well, that the first would have to be the best. She probably also knew that her ancestors, remembering their centuries of enslavement, encircled her in solidarity and celebration! A cloud of witnesses, witnessing what must look to them like a miracle!

It was not a resounding YES, but it will be a bright day in our history of days!

Congratulations, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson!

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I Need You to Survive

I tried to remember the name of every person who has prayed for me over the years.
I know that every name does not appear in this image of the dove,
but all of you, and those I left out, are gifts to me.
Thank you all wherever you are.

OThrough eight years of serious illness, dialysis, kidney transplant and all the other areas of my angst, I have heard one very special message again and again from folks I love all over the world. Each person said it to me in a unique way, and remembering their message makes me want to reach out to all of them with deep gratitude. I could never begin to list each of their names, although I tried to in the image of the dove. Their message was a cherished gift . . .

”I need you to survive.”

During a personal life assessment this past week, I thought a lot about this message I heard so many times. I realized that these might be the most loving words I have ever heard. Hearing the words again moved me to a tender time, one of those times when life and death and mortality somehow come to mind. Truth is, I am able to think about these kinds of life things only in my tender times. This week my favorite doctor, who knows a lot about all things tender, said something to me I won’t soon forget . . .

“When you first came to me five years ago, I didn’t think you would live another five years.”

Such a statement would most definitely bring to one’s mind all that is important and all that isn’t. Thinking on her words brought me to the tender moment I have needed for quite a while. I lingered there for a few days, hoping to let my soul rest and my spirit begin to see things in a new way.

It isn’t such a bad place to be right now in the midst of Lent. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to pay attention to my soul and spirit. Lent is the perfect time for tender moments and tender thoughts. Lent is the best time to be tender with myself while searching my spirit for the parts of me that must repent and return to God with all my heart. (Joel 2:12)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24 NRSV

Lent draws me to this psalm and its invitation to God. I might very well need to send this very invitation to God about searching me and knowing me, testing me and knowing my every thought. I come, though, to the part that asks God to see if in me there are “wicked ways.” I’m not so sure I want to do that. I know there are wicked ways in me that I try my best to keep secret. But this is Lent, and God already knows all about that.

During these Lenten days, be tender with yourself. Take a look at your secret wicked ways, but remember that God sends you the message clearly — that you are God’s beloved and that you receive the grace of God’s forgiveness even before you utter a single word of repentance. God’s like that, especially in our tender moments.


In your quiet time, listen for even a minute to this music video and celebrate its joyful message. It lifts my heart every time I hear it.

Bravery, Brokenness, Calamity, grief, Images, Lament, Oppression, Prayer, Suffering, Ukraine, War, Weeping

A Moment of Lament for Ukraine

Because many words have been written,
poetry has spoken mourning,
music has resounded hope,
and prayers have given voice to deep lament —
I offer these images.

In your moments of prayer and reflection, please join the people of the world who pray for the people of Ukraine. Perhaps this music will enhance your time of prayer and remind you of the tragedy of war and the finality of violence.

He shall judge among the nations,
    and shall rebuke many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    nor shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 2:4 MEV

Brokenness, Come, Ye Disconsolate, Comfort, Depression, Despair, Disconsolate, discouragement, Emotions, Hope, Sorrow

A Lenten Invitation . . . Come, Ye Disconsolate


“Come, Ye Disconsolate” is one of my favorite hymns. You might ask why. In every person’s life, there are times of sorrow that fall very deeply into the soul. There is a sense in which deep sorrow communes with us like no other emotion. Being disconsolate can be a beautiful experience.

It is a beautiful word — disconsolate — a word full of depth and full of meaning. Yet, it is not a word we often use. It sounds a bit like an ”old” word to me, perhaps more widely used in decades past. The definition? According to Merriam-Webster, the word disconsolate means “cheerless.” I don’t find enough soul angst in that definition, but the word has many soulful synonyms.


Synonyms for disconsolate can be as heart-rending as the word itself: downcast, inconsolable, dispirited, desolate, crushed, despairing, destroyed, despondent, hopeless, heartbroken ~
comfortless


So many words, so full of sorrow. Still, I love the word disconsolate. It has been my companion on many a journey and, although I did not welcome it as an emotion, I learned to own it, which is surely the most important way to have full awareness of your spirit. The truth is, when one is disconsolate, it is an opportunity to imagine being wrapped tenderly with a soft blanket of hope. Wrapped completely, face-under-the-covers wrapped!

How can such a word remind me of a soft blanket tenderly wrapped around me? How can the soft cover be called a blanket of hope? I will offer one reason that is a personal story about my friend and colleague in ministry, Donna. When I was desperately ill with end stage kidney disease, Donna came to visit me in the hospital often. Many of those visits I can’t remember, but she came one day holding a gift in her hands. The gift was a fluffy, white crocheted blanket that her entire congregation had prayed over as they petitioned God to restore me to health.

Every time, from that day to this, that I covered myself with that blanket, I would think of Donna and her church members and their act of love and concern. I imagined them nearby and sensed their prayers becoming a part of my soul’s lament. They did not leave me comfortless.

Whenever I feel disconsolate, comfortless, it helps me to remember these words from the Gospel of John, one of the most beautifully poignant passages in all of scripture:

16 And I will pray to God who will send you
another Comforter who will abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth;
Sadly, the world cannot accept the Comforter,
because it does not truly see her or know her.
But you know her; for she dwells with you, and shall be in you.

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 In a little while, the world will see me no more;
but you see me: because I live, you shall live also.

25 These things have I spoken unto you while I am still present with you.

26 But the Comforter — the Holy Spirit — God will send in my name,

and the Spirit will teach you all things,
and bring all things to your remembrance, all the things I have said to you.

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:
I do not give you peace as the world gives,

Instead I give you peace as if it were from God.
And so, my beloved children, do not let your heart be troubled,
neither let your heart be afraid.
— Jesus, recorded in John 14: 16-19; 25-27, paraphrased


During the times I felt disconsolate through the years, I have always been able to rest under the comforting wings of the Spirit, the Comforter who is with me always. Yes, it is true that many times my heart was troubled and afraid. The words of Jesus did not always repair the state of my heart or diminish my fear. But the promise of Jesus — that I would not be left comfortless — soothed and strengthened my heart.

The words of this hymn held for me a depth of meaning that has spoken comfort and truth to my disconsolate spirit — every time — easing my suffering and leaving me with hope.

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish; 
come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel. 
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; 
earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. 

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying, 
hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure! 
Here speaks the Comforter, in mercy saying, 
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.”

Here see the bread of life; see waters flowing 
forth from the throne of God, pure from above. 
Come to the feast prepared; come, ever knowing 
earth has no sorrow but heaven can remove.
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

I have experienced the “joy of the desolate” many times. It is a joy that fills my heart, in spite of how deeply desolate I feel. As for what this all means during this Lenten season. For me, it means that a Lenten experience can help me see the ”light of the straying,” and that I will experience the ”hope of the penitent” and once again hear the words of the Comforter “in mercy saying, ‘Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.’”

From this time forth and forevermore. Amen.

As you spend a few quiet moments during this Second Week of Lent, the following video of this moving hymn may give you peace and hope.

The Georgia Boy Choir singing “Come, Ye Disconsolate” arranged by Terre Johnson.
This performance was recorded on July 24, 2021,
during the regional concert tour at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in Macon, Georgia.

All Shall Be Well, Ash Wednesday, Contemplation, Joel 2:12-13, Lent, Return to me with all your heart, Sacred Space

ALL SHALL BE WELL . . . A VIDEO BLOG ON SPIRITUALITY – EPISODE NUMBER 4

“ALL SHALL BE WELL” is a video blog that will help us enhance our personal spirituality and lead us into sacred pauses that will nourish our souls.

Welcome to “All Shall Be Well,” where we will explore together our spiritual center, create a moment of sacred pause and join together in contemplation and silence. In this episode, I want to focus our thoughts on the spirituality of Lent. On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. God speaks to us through the Prophet Joel in chapter 2, saying,

Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart
    and not your garments.

We begin Lent with Ash Wednesday, the day that we receive a cross on our foreheads — a cross of ashes blended with just a drop of sanctified oil. I do not wipe off the cross, but let it remain for the entire day.

In a way, it’s comforting to know that something holy and tangible interrupted my ordinary day, a cross of ashes to remind me of sacred things I already know — that Lent is a time of reflection, penitence, repentance, prayer, fasting, giving up things, returning to God. And on top of all of those things I must ponder for forty days, things that weigh heavily on my heart, a minister says this to me as she (he) forms the ashen cross on my forehead:

Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.

God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3:19

There are so many life events to remind us that we are but dust. But is that really what a Lenten journey is about? Is it really meant to hold our sins over us and urge us to do penance? Is Lent just a time of repentance, remembering our sin and our frailty?

Maybe Lent is also about God’s extravagant mercy, God’s grace that is greater than all our sins, and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus that made us all beloved children of God.

Imagine for a moment that our cross of ashes is really not really made of ashes at all. If you look at it closely — as you imagine God’s lavish grace — you might not see ashes, but instead, stardust!

Please join me via video for a few moments of Lenten reflection . . .

Ash Wednesday, Lent, Lenten journey, Repentance

I Didn’t Get Ashes Today.

I didn’t get ashes today. I don’t really understand why, considering that I have always been very religious and sometimes even spiritual. I think I may be in denial and don’t want to hear that I am dust (as I inch closer to dust each day that passes). I confess, I did feel emotional about not getting ashes today. I couldn’t name my emotions for some reason, so I began looking at images that might help me name them.

I found this image and, once I played with it a bit on my digital art program, I liked it. Most other Ash Wednesday images are gray and somber. I settled on this one because it has abstract ashes at the bottom and the palm that is burned to create them. It has a cross to remind me what Lent is ultimately about. It has some color, and there is light.

Digital art by Kathy Manis Findley

I didn’t get ashes today, but I got what is in this image! ashes, palm, a cross, color and light. I’m convincing myself that it’s okay that I didn’t get ashes.

Sometimes I wonder what I should do with Ash Wednesday? A better question might be, What does Ash Wednesday do with me? Must this day remind me that I am merely dust and will return to dust? At my age this is not a comforting thought.

And yet, I have to admit that standing before a minister to receive a smudge of ashes on my forehead is always like standing on holy ground, like standing in the presence of a transfigured Jesus who just last week showed us what transfiguration looks like. With a smudged cross made of ashes on my face, I walk on with just the tiniest hope that I will be transfigured, too, during the next forty days. Still, I got no ashes today.

What do I do with this day that invites me into the season of Lent by giving me ashes? How do I walk this forty day journey that is always marked by repentance, return, fasting, prayer, giving up something, and lamenting over what is, what has been, and what is to come? I am never quite sure that I want to travel Lent’s forty day journey.

So what will I do with this Lent? Some of all of it, I think — fasting, praying, hoping, healing, lamenting, giving up a thing, repenting and returning to God with all my heart.

Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart
    and not your garments.


Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2:12-13 NIV

That’s my spiritual state on this Ash Wednesday, with a need for “fasting and weeping and mourning.” Lent has always been about penitence for me, but penitence without shame or guilt. Instead of shame or guilt when I return to God with all my heart, I will hear this:

I will arise and go to Jesus;
He will embrace me in his arms,
In the arms of my dear savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Shame and guilt can never create newness and transformation for anyone. Sincere metanoia (sincere repentance) will create transformation.

If you know me at all, you know that hymns always offer me ”the whole story” — all the emotions that grab my heart, all the theology that matters, all the melody that lifts my soul. This hymn, one of my heart-hymns, says it all for me. And in this holy season, all that the hymn affirms will be my Lent. Please take a few moments to hear the hymn in the video below as you take time for reflection.

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow'r.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome,
God's free bounty glorify,
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry till you're better,
You will never come at all.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
Presented by Taryn Harbridge
Grace, Hope, Potter, Potter’s clay, Remolding and remaking

Gentle, Intentional Remolding

The Potter

We could have a long conversation about the potter’s messy hands, about the mud under his nails, about the strength of hands that look as if they are using every muscle to shape the pot. We would probably talk about the dynamic force of his hands that hold the pot lightly enough to form it, but controlled enough to avoid marring or damaging it.

In our conversation, we would probably remember the prophet Jeremiah’s encounter with a potter and the ways we have used that passage of scripture over the years. I don’t know about you, but my teachers and preachers used this text to teach me about the ways God can mold me into a worthy vessel that can hold enough faith and hope to get me through the hard times. Plus, being remolded would mean I was being ”obedient to God!”

We certainly do not want to use scripture out of its historical context, but another use of a scripture passage is to consider its imagery, its symbolism and its relevance to us in a given life situation. The following scripture, as translated in The Voice, contains a powerful section after verse 1 that tells us how God’s message comes through a prophetic drama played out at a potter’s wheel, and that there, the prophet sees an ordinary event from which he receives an extraordinary message.

The word of the Eternal came to Jeremiah

Now God’s message comes through another prophetic drama played out in a potter’s shop somewhere in the city. The prophet sees an ordinary event but receives an extraordinary message.

Eternal One: Go down to the potter’s shop in the city, and wait for My word.

So I went down to the potter’s shop and found him making something on his wheel.

And as I watched, the clay vessel in his hands became flawed and unusable. So the potter started again with the same clay. He crushed and squeezed and shaped it into another vessel that was to his liking.  
                              —
Jeremiah 18:1-4 (The VOICE)

I cannot help but remember the many times throughout my life that this passage was interpreted as a potter (God) forming me. The message inevitably moved to the part where ”God is not pleased with me and is trying to remold me into a more worthy vessel for God’s glory.” Not the best biblical message we could glean from Jeremiah’s drama! Not only that, but I don’t much like the idea of the potter ”crushing, squeezing and shaping” me.

The best truth is that God does remold us in so many ways, gently and intentionally, so that we are always in the process of change and growth. In our case, the God who loves us just as we are, also holds us, as if in a potter’s hands. Though this passage does speak of serious remolding, it never indicates that the potter throws the damaged pot into the trash pile.

It is true that we are damaged again and again in this life, but God loves who we are, and like the potter, God gently remolds us along the way, creating of us the best we can be. God never throws us away, no matter how severe our damage — damage on the outside, visible to all; and on the inside, where the deepest damage rests, in the soul and spirit. Visible to no one, excruciatingly visible to us.

We can choose to be like clay in the potter’s hands, allowing a gentle God to remold us, repair our damaged life, and empower us to be new, remade. This sounds like hope to me, and grace.

This is Jeremian’s story, his vision. He sees it as an ordinary event that graces us with an extraordinary message. Jeremiah’s story is ours to ponder and to ask ourselves if there is any damage to us or in us. If you sometimes view yourself as damaged, seek help from someone you trust — a friend or family member, a therapist, a spiritual director, your minister.

And remember, the potter is always near for gentle remolding.